It was one of those once in a lifetime trips. I was invited to India, a place for one reason or another, always held a fascination for me. I inquired about playing some golf while there and was able to set up a few tee times.
Now India is not a country known for its golf, however, it has produced some very good professional tour players such Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Anirban Lahri to name a few.
But in the past few years there has been a move afoot to take India’s golf tourism to an international level.
India, as they say, is putting itself out there
Golf is not affordable for the average working class person in that country. It is still an elite sport. So there is a big push to attract golfers from countries where players can view the price of playing golf in India relatively inexpensive. Green fees, from what I noticed, ranged from $40 to $80 but I would expect, with a golf package, those rates, especially through the week, would be less.
India staged its second major golf summit this past October, attracting numerous buyers from the travel industry from over two dozen countries. They interacted with sellers in India representing golf courses, golf tour operators and hotels, international airlines, state and national governments. The Indian government has, in fact, formed a golf tourism policy to promote India as a golf destination.
At the summit, Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma stressed government support for the initiative..
“Golf is at nascent stage in the country and the government is ready to support this niche tourism product. There is a lot of potential for golf tourism in India,” he said.
The country has about 220 courses with several being of high international standard and designed by the likes of Nicklaus, Norman, Palmer, etc.
Actually, golf in India has a long history. The Bombay Presidency Golf Club in Mumbai, (formerly Bombay) was first built in 1827 and later re-designed by Peter Thompson. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club in Kolkata, (formerly Calcutta) was established in 1829.
I got to play the Bombay Presidency course and at the Chandigarh Golf Club, in the northern part of the country. Both very good courses. I also spent an afternoon at the Delhi Golf Club, a private course but accessible to visitors. It has a full, 18-hole course and was in the process of redesigning and rebuilding a 9-hole course. Get this, the Delhi course has 5,000 members with approximately 3,500 being active golfers.
At the Delhi club I met Mr. Rajan Sehgal, President of the India Golf Tourism Association. The association was formed, he said, to work with India’s government to promote the country’s golf product and tourism around the world. He told me there are several more courses either planned or under construction.
The Delhi area or the National Capital Region is a good golf destination because there are number of top level courses within close proximity. After spending a few days in the city, I felt the Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi was a great place to base a golf holiday.
Weather wise, India is certainly an attractive destination from October to March. Temperatures in the northern part of the country, which features such courses as Royal Spring Golf Course in Srinagar, a world rated design, and the very attractive and challenging Chandigarh course, are comfortable in the 20 C range.
India is a very exotic destination. Grand Travel Planners (www.grandtravelplanners.ca), an Indian company, has an office in Toronto, which of course specializes in India trips. They have a golf and culture package that offers a good feel for the country’s golf product and a taste of India’s culture and history.
The Indian government also has a tourism office in Toronto firstname.lastname@example.org which is very helpful in planning a trip.
India was a “bucket list” trip for me and I am glad I had the opportunity to go. In fact, I can’t wait until a get a chance to go back and put a greater focus on the golf. India wasn’t just a trip, it was an experience.